/ Annapurna Base Camp Trek
Looking at doing the Annapurna base camp trek (Annapurna Sanctuary) with my girlfriend this November. Looking for any useful information from anyone who's done it before? Would you recommend a guide and or porter? Do you book the tea houses or just turn up?
Thanks in advance
I'm off to Nepal in April (sightseeing and trekking (Poon Hill)) and I'm using a guide based in Pokhara. He comes recommended by a friend of mine who has used him three or four times over the last 8 years or so. I can put you in touch with him if you want.
I hiked it in 2013 on my own. I was there the first three weeks of December. I flew from Kathmandu to Pokhara then was fortunate to find a taxi outside the airport to the trail head. The driver first took me to the bus station, but it was the wrong one. So he drove me for what the bus fare would have been. I didn't use a guide nor booked tea house accommodation. Everything was easy to find and very inexpensive. Make sure you buy your Annapurna Trek passes in Kathmandu otherwise they ding you for double the cost when you're in the mountains. I can't remember the names of all the places. The usual routine for me at the end of a day was to check out the sleeping rooms then negotiate a price which included food. I bought a couple of 1 litre bottles of water which I used to fill with village water as I walked. I used water treatment pills and had no stomach issues, but didn't eat any raw foods. I ate almost exclusively dal bhat, because it was basically "all you can eat" for the low, low price of a couple of dollars. So I never went hungry. If you need further information drop me an email.
My wife and I did Annapurna Base Camp year before last, in last Oct/early Nov as part of our honeymoon. I was initially quite against getting a guide but we eventually decided to on recommendation of friends and I'm glad we did. He was knowledgable, friendly and great fun, and it took all of the stress over finding places to stay and planning days. He would phone ahead and book our accommodation as it was peak season and fairly busy, arranged the taxis, negotiate the bills etc.
You absolutely don't *need* a guide, with a map and basic navigation skills it would be fine, but I think having him there made it a much more pleasurable experience. There were some non-guided groups who often had to go round several tea houses looking for rooms. I don't think you'd ever not get somewhere to stay, there is always the communal dining room where the porters and guides sleep as a last resort, but I remember such a group, for example, ending up having to sleep in tents at base camp rather than on a bed in a room (with retrospect however, I'm not sure which would have been worse!).
As for tips, spend a few days in Pokhara first as it's lovely. If you have a good hotel they will probably be able to organise a guide and taxis as required. If you are staying with them afterwards too you will be able to leave your excess luggage with them. Buy your permits in Pokhara, take lots of passport photos with you (needed for entry visa, permits etc.), and I remember that permits must be paid for in rupees rather than US dollars. If you plan sleep at base camp then get up there early that day as the accommodation is limited and thus on more of a 'first come, first served' basis, it also increases the chances of getting good views as afternoons often cloud over and sunrise vistas are not guaranteed the day after! It is not a long walk from Deurali (2-3hrs). If you have any other questions feel free to PM me.
Depending on when you are doing your trek watch out for leeches. The litttle buggers are very good at getting on you.
We didn't use a guide, but as others have said it might be a nice addition to the trip. We met plenty of folks who were.really enjoying the extra local knowledge that they got from their guide and seemed to be finding out a lot more about village life etc. Don't not get one through ego if you know what I mean. You definitely don't need one, but it would probably enhance. Your trip if you are alone. Having said that the odd guide we met was a bit of a nob so maybe try and meet them before booking.
Beautiful area enjoy.
Be prepared for leeches.
No need for guide/porter, just turn up at tea houses. Get your permits in advance. Have fun!
I wouldn't bother with Poon Hill. Admittedly it is absolutely stunning but the hundreds of people make it a bit of an anti-climax. If you do go up, I recommend stopping ten minutes from the top and then you get the views without the crowds.
I stayed here in Pokhara: Peace Eye Guest House & Taal Lounge Cafe. It was recommended to me while I was on the trek and didn't disappoint. A bonus was roof-top yoga as the sun rose each morning.
Ged has got it pretty spot on, most folk who are reasonably happy in the outdoors and basic map skills won't 'need' a guide, but it definitely can add to the experience, it depends on the kind of experience you want. The major downside to having a guide is the total freedom to set your own route and schedule as you go. If you luck out and get someone who is very knowledgeable about the flowers and birds you'll see it can be really great.
Room prices tend to be fixed, but a lodge owner will sometimes spontaneously offer you discount or a throw in a free hot shower if you arrive at their door with a smile, I have never heard of anyone being ripped off (although it will feel like it if you insist on buying a snickers bar at 4000m which someone has spent 3days carrying up there). Always eat dinner and breakfast at the place you sleep at.
Early November is very much peak trekking so you may find you have to go round several lodges to find a room, but you'll get somewhere, as you get later in November things get quieter. As a previous poster has said, it will be busy with other trekkers enjoying the same vistas as you, if you mind that kind of thing, don't go to Annapurna outside of Monsoon season (many leeches and limited views), otherwise just embrace it.
There is a permit office in Pokhara as well at Kathmandu, depending on your schedule it might be more convenient to use this office. It is perfectly feasible to go and get your permits in the morning, get a taxi to the trail head and start your trek in the afternoon (taxi drivers hang around the permit office for this reason). Buses out along the Baglung highway (most trail heads you might want are on this road) are also possible if you want to save a bit of money, but requires more effort to get out to where they leave from.
Interesting to read the various replies. I went there in 1982. We got the bus to Pokhara, which was a big mistake! Couldn't fit into any of the seats and spent the entire journey sat on the roof. Pokhara was what I imagine Haight Ashbury must have been like in the 60s, full of hippies. Most trekkers were going to Jomson and we were the only people up in the sanctuary. There was a single dilapidated hut which served rice as the only food.
For the three weeks we were out of KMD we lived almost exclusively on dahl bat. When we got back to KMD I weighed 9 stone (normal weight was about12). I was so fed up of rice that I didn't eat any for about three years after!
I would recommend getting a guide, especially if it is your first time there. It’s great you are going and Nepal is a wonderful and country, but the locals still need all the help they can get. I spent 6 months in Nepal in 2014 and for what you pay for a guide, your experience will be enhanced ten fold. Still do your homework or go with a recommendation on here. However it’s in the Nepali culture to help out visitors, I can’t remember the translation, but there is saying that ‘visitors are gods’.
Also while in Pokhara, make sure to visit the old town and not just lakeside, and it sounds random, but check out the ‘butterfly museum’